In the midst of a popcorn-strewn room, hands clutched together in awe while tears poured freely, we witnessed a masterpiece in theater 14 last night. Laughing with beautiful drag queens and shuddering as music pierced our souls, A Star Is Born, a film of raw talent and powerful storytelling, had the entire theater captivated. There’s a reason this movie has been remade three times.
Musician Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper) finds himself in a drag bar after a night of performing, where he witnesses Ally (Lady Gaga), an aspiring singer and songwriter, blow the room away with a performance of a soulful French piece. Jack and Ally meet backstage, and in the throws of admiration and amusement, the pair spends the night partaking in a variety of adventures that begin their relationship. From a fight at a cop bar to writing music in a parking lot, Jack and Ally’s chemistry is unmistakable.
The next day Jack flies Ally out to meet him at a gig. At the end of the concert, Jack pulls Ally onstage with him and they sing a soul-shattering duet of the song Ally wrote the night before. A video of their performance goes viral on YouTube, giving Ally the recognition she needs to start her own music career. As Ally’s career picks up speed, Jack’s goes into decline. Through the navigation of fame, alcoholism and drug addiction, Jack and Ally prove that if you have something to say, you need to make the world listen.
A Star Is Born explores the mental stress of those in the spotlight while depicting alcoholism and addiction as a disease in a refreshing way. Early in the movie, Ally calls Jack by his full name: Jackson Maine. Jack replies, “That’s the funny thing about being famous. Suddenly everyone calls you by your full name.” Not long after this exchange, Ally begins to realize how little Jack is treated like an actual person. His photo is constantly taken without permission, he doesn’t ever get asked how he’s doing and every part of his privacy is consistently violated. This treatment and lifestyle takes a toll on Jack, which ultimately results in him suffering from alcoholism and drug addiction.
The tragedy of the disease and mental struggle depicted in A Star Is Born echoes a sobering reality in our entertainment industry. Rapper Mac Miller passed away from a drug overdose in September, fashion designer Kate Spade committed suicide in June, Swedish musician Avicii passed away from suicide in April and Dolores O’Riordan, The Cranberries singer, died from drowning as a result of alcohol intoxication in January. Fame and glorifying addiction in the way much of pop culture does lets people struggling with addiction down. Privacy is broken when millions know someone is an addict, and that knowledge often comes with judgement and disappointment instead of understanding and help. Each time a celebrity passes away from suicide and/or overdose, social media blows up with upset fans offering condolences and sharing suicide awareness posts. While these posts might help those alive and struggling, they would be far more effective as a consistent value, as opposed to being sporadic outlets of mourning. If celebrities were offered privacy and support from the beginning, sufferers of these diseases would be fewer and farther between.
From the first A Star Is Born release in 1937, each film adaptation has taken the story and made it their own, and Cooper and Gaga don’t stray from that tradition in the 2018 remake. The film fully exposes Gaga and Cooper’s full range of musical abilities, leaving little room for disappointment. Gaga’s full range is exposed through soulful ballads and familiar pop pieces while Cooper showcases experienced piano and guitar playing and a husky rockstar vocal range with country undertones. Gaga and Cooper share equal time in the spotlight with their music but perform enough duets to satisfy the thirst we have to hear their captivating voices blend.
A consistent theme in A Star Is Born is the truth that everyone has something to say and it’s up to you to make people listen. Cooper and Gaga have something to say, and boy, do they ever say it. One viewing of the film is hardly enough to digest these important messages, so join me in going to see it every single day that it’s in theaters, then purchase the DVD and watch it every day. In the words of my good friend Brad Coop, “I just want to take another look at it.”
Warning: It’s a real tear-jerker.